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Urban development and climate change to trigger severe urban floods

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The residents of northern Georgia, US, aren’t very used to flooding. So when severe rain started falling in September 2009, most people didn’t pay much attention. But the rain kept falling and falling, submerging entire neighborhoods, roads, and bridges.

The Georgia flood seemingly came out of nowhere, but results from a new study suggests it may have not been all that much of a freak occurrence. Instead, it may be the result of the combined effect of urban development and greenhouse gases. Matei Georgescu, associate professor in ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, has spent much of his time studying phenomena related to urbanization-induced landscape change. There’s a lot to look at: the cities we’ve grown so accustomed to still have environmental effects that are poorly understood.

The Urban Heat Island effect, for instance, was first investigated and described by amateur meteorologist Luke Howard in the 1810s. In recent decades, especially as climate change started entering into force, researchers also paid increasing attention to this effect. In principle, it’s pretty straightforward: cities are hotter than the surrounding areas. This happens because they’re darker and absorb more radiation from the sun and because materials like concrete or asphalt keep the […]

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